I'm a Victorian freelance writer & photographer living in the Macedon Ranges north of Melbourne.
Published August 6th 2013
10 Top Things To Do in Ballarat
#1 Sovereign Hill
Undoubtedly the pre-eminent tourist attraction in Ballarat, Sovereign Hill is an incredibly accurate re-creation of a gold rush town. Underground mine tours, real gold 'pours', panning for the elusive metal and real life artisans, craftsmen and business owners combine to provide a living, breathing 1850's gold fields experience.
Main Street Sovereign Hill, Ballarat's premier tourist attraction
#2 The Gold Museum
Just across the road from Sovereign Hill you'll find the Gold Museum. Part of the Sovereign Hill Museum Association, entry to Sovereign Hill includes entry to the Gold Museum.
Opened in 1978 the Gold Museum is home to a diverse range of collections covering all aspects of mining and social history on the Ballarat gold fields.
Bradshaw Street, Golden Point 03) 5337 1107 www.sovereignhill.com.auj Open 7 days 9.30 AM to 5.30 PM (6 Pm During Daylight Savings) Except Xmas Day
A statue of former Premier Sir Henry Bolte keeps a watchful over Ballarat's Gold Museum
#3 Ballarat Botanical Gardens
Development of Ballarat's Botanical Gardens dates back to 1858 when a decision was taken to convert the Ballarat Police Paddocks into a garden.
The Gardens are best known to many as home to the Ballarat Begonia Festival, a three day event in March each year during which these amazing blooms are showcased.
This incredibly fine example of a 19th Century Colonial streetscape, steeped in history and impressive beyond belief, was named after Ballarat's first Police Magistrate, C.I.P. Lydiard.
It was an area earmarked for the town's early development in 1851 when, thanks to the riches generated by early gold strikes, cost was no barrier and grand & impressive architecture was the order of the day.
Lydiard Streets architectural treasures include the former Mining Exchange
Today this former site of the gold escort barracks and stables boasts 34 buildings of great historic and architectural significance including the former Ballarat Gaol, the School of Mines and the Heritage Listed Her Majesties Theatre where the great Dame Nellie Melba once performed.
There have been three George Hotels on this site in historic Lydiard Street, the first dating back to Ballarat's earliest days
#5 Ballarat Tramway Museum
Ballarat's first trams were 6 horse-drawn double-decker vehicles capable of carrying 44 seated passengers and introduced in December 1887.
Today the Ballarat Tramway Museum operates on 1.3 Kms of restored track within the Botanical Gardens on Saturdays, Sundays, Public Holidays and during Victorian school holidays.
The tramcar fleet, including one of the original horse-drawn carriages is on display at the museum workshops.
Ballarat's Art Gallery holds a unique place in Australian and British history. The oldest regional gallery in Australia, it was established in 1884, it was also the first gallery to be built outside a Capital city anywhere in the British Empire.
The Art Gallery of Ballarat is home to a collection extending from the colonial convict era to the present day and hosts a range of events including concerts and art work-shops.
Classic colonial architecture is to be found everywhere in Ballarat's city centre
#7 Ballarat Wildlife Park
Just 5 minutes from Sovereign Hill the Ballarat Wildlife Park is the result of one man's life ambition.
Greg Parker moved to Ballarat in 1985 after many years involved with zoos. He acquired 13 Hectares of land at Ballarat East and set about establishing his unique collection of native animals and more than 200 reptiles.
Cnr of York & Fussell Streets, Ballarat East
(03) 5333 5933 www.wildlifepark.com.au
Open 7 days (Except Xmas Day) 9 Am to 5.30 PM.
#8 Kryal Castle
The original Kryal Castle was the boyhood dream of its creator Keith Ryall.
Taken over by new owners in January 2012 the castle was closed for extensive renovations and upgrades before reopening in March 2013.
The new Kryal Castles attractions are numerous and include jousting tournaments, the Wizards Workroom, a torture dungeon & museum and Fairies & Goblins Wonderland.
Kryal Castle is home to a host of medieval fun & games
#9 Ballaarat Old Cemetery
No, that's not a typo – BALLAARAT is the local aboriginal pronunciation for the area that is now Ballarat.
The old cemetery occupies 7 Hectares just 1.5 Kms from the City centre and is the resting place of some of the districts very early settlers. The first official burial took place here on 20th May 1856 although there are records which show burials being conducted in the immediate area during the 1840's . Officially 35,000 people have been interred here.
Two Eureka memorials and a Gate House which is an absolute treasure trove of historical information make this a great place to visit.
Her Majesties Theatre is one of the jewels in the crown that is Lydiard Street.
Financed by Ballarat's Clarke family and opened on 7th June 1875 Her Majesties is arguably the best preserved colonial theatre building in Australia and one of very few to be in continuous use since opening.
Originally known as the Academy of Music the theatre was built to replace the very grand but outdated Theatre Royal which had stood in Sturt Street since 1858.
Her Majesties has a wonderful history leading up to its gifting to the City of Ballarat in 1987. Major renovations were undertaken and the theatre reopened as Her Majesties on 1st November 1990.